Has it been ten years already? My God, how time moves. Tonight is the final episode of Smallville, a series that began with the idea that it would show a young Clark Kent years before he would operate as a superhero, when he was just a teenager in Smallville, Kansas. Initially, the show went by a rule of “no capes, no tights.” Some familiar faces would show up, but in normal clothing rather than colorful costumes.
As the years went on, that rule began to weaken and then got thrown out the window. For the past few seasons, Smallville has taken place primarily in the city of Metropolis and has featured a large host of super-villains and superheroes. Let’s see how some of these comic book characters translated to live action, shall we?
First, let’s discuss the comic book character. When one of his father’s major experiments went wrong, Victor Stone wound up with half of his body destroyed. To save his life, his father rebuilt his son as a cyborg. Victor, a charismatic athlete, was traumatized that he was now a “freak” and couldn’t resume his normal life. Even half of his face was gone, replaced by a metal exo-skeleton equipped with sensors. Eventually, he joined the Teen Titans, a group originally composed of the teenage sidekicks of older superheroes. As a Titan, Victor found a new purpose in life and has been a hero ever since.
In the fifth season of Smallville, Victor Stone was played by Lee Thompson Young. A local athlete who lost his family in a car crash, Victor survived because some funky scientists decided to experiment on him and turn him into a cyborg. Unlike his comic book counterpart, this version of Victor was not visibly different from how he appeared before the accident. Eventually, he joined up with the Green Arrow and became a clandestine superhero, using this outfit when he went out on missions.
It’s not bad and I get that the metallic look is supposed to let us know he’s Cyborg. But honestly, he seems more like he’s an extra from a movie taking place in the future. It’d be better to just give him robotic parts.
In the DC Comics Universe (or DCU), J’onn J’onzz is one of the last living Martians. Centuries ago, J’onn was among his planet’s proud police force, whose name roughly translates to English as the “Manhunters of Mars.” But then his people were wiped out by a plague, a sickness that took his wife and his child. For hundreds of years, J’onn wandered his planet, alone and traumatized until a scientist on Earth activated a machine that accidentally teleported J’onn into his lab. Eventually, J’onn assumed the identity of detective John Jones. And years later, after Superman made his debut and Earth became more receptive to the idea of alien protectors, J’onn went public as the Martian Manhunter.
In Smaville, J’onn is played by Phil Morris. With the exception of the occasional red eye-glow or blue and/or green blur, we’ve mainly seen J’onn only when he’s been in human form. In more recent seasons, he’s worn an outfit that is a nod to his Martian Manhunter guise. A blue jacket, green shirt, red gun holsters. Cute, but a little cheesy and unnecessary for the show. Maybe if the green shirt and the red straps were much darker. Or maybe if we used a black shirt, emulating the black costume J’onn wore briefly in the comics. If you know the comics, this outfit just seems like it’s trying too hard and if you don’t know the comic, you’re wondering why J’onn is dressed in such strange colors.
In one episode, we did briefly see J’onn’s true form. Very nice touch.
In DC Comics, there have been many heroes called the Flash: Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West. Barry’s grandson Bart Allen was born with speed and became the teenage hero called Impulse, though in later years he adopted the new identity of Kid Flash (a title originally held by Wally West).
In Smallville, Kyle Gallner played Bart Allen, a teenager with super-speed that Clark met in the episode “Run.” This version of Bart was a con-artist and a thief, using his speed to commit petty theft and operating under several aliases (included “Jay Garrick”, “Barry Allen”, and “Wally West”). He eventually got onto the straight and narrow and joined Green Arrow’s version of the Justice League. Initially, he just wore a red hoodie. As an actual superhero, he wore this costume which is… well… pretty boring. The lightning up the sides is a little too subtle and if you’re traveling at super-speed then I imagine that hoody isn’t staying on. We can do better than this.
In 25th century Metropolis, Michael Jon Carter was a sports star who was later expelled from playing due to the discovery that he was fixing games. Unable to deal with the humiliation, he stole a time machine and journeyed back several centuries to the modern day, deciding he would be a superhero alongside the greats such as Superman and Batman. Calling himself Booster Gold, he has been known as a superhero who is all about marketing himself, even once going so far as to sell advertisement space on his costume. In recent years, he’s gotten a bit more serious about life, but it’s hard to break from a reputation.
In the newest season of Smallville, Booster showed up, played by Eric Martsolf. And man, did we stay true to the character here. You’ve got the right design and lots of ads all over it. The trousers are blue rather than solid gold, but this makes sense since that design probably wouldn’t translate as well to live action. It’s also leather rather than some kind of spandex, which is in keeping with the Smallville style. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the fake abs. They’re a bit silly and distracting. But it’s a small complaint.
There have been several Blue Beetles over the years. Currently, the guy who holds that mantle is Jaime Reyes, a teenager from Texas who found the mysterious blue scarab gem that had given powers and armor to the original Beetle, Dan Garret. The scarab bonded with Jaime and since then he, with the help of his alien armor, has helped protect Earth and its people on many occasions.
In Smallville, Jaime (played by Jaren Brandt Bartlett) showed up as Blue Beetle in the same episode that introduced Booster Gold. Which makes a little sense, since Booster and the second Beetle, Ted Kord, were huge buddies in the comics. And this armor looks… clunky. Yeah, that’s the only word for it. Clunky. I give it credit for being so true to the design of the comic book armor, but maybe some changes should’ve been made so it could’ve been more functional for the show. Here, it honestly looks like a Power Rangers villain.
In the DCU, Aquaman is the offspring of a surface-dwelling lighthouse keeper and a woman of the royal family of Atlantis, whose people became water-breathers. As a man of two heritages, Orin AKA Arthur Curry AKA Aquaman has acted as a superhero, a king of Atlantis, and a guardian of the entire Earth, protecting it from alien invaders and other-dimensional conquerors. He’s had a lot of looks, but his classic costume has been an orange shirt of scale mail and green trousers.
In Smallville, Arthur (or “A.C.” as he preferred to be called) first showed up in the episode “Aqua” and was played by American Idol contestant Alan Ritchson. He wore an outfit that gave a nod to his comic book roots but was not a costume itself: an orange shirt and green swim trunks. I thought this was actually pretty clever. It’s a nod but not over the top, thus keeping it grounded in Smallville‘s original idea that this would be a show with neither tights nor capes. And it’s functional for the character’s role in the story.
Later on, A.C. himself a real costume for his missions in the Green Arrow’s ersatz Justice League. This isn’t bad but looks like something he got from a sporting goods store. It’s not costume enough to look like one and it’s not functional enough for it to really be justified in the show. He’s a swimmer, just lose the shirt.
In the most recent season of Smallville, Arthur was now adventuring with his new wife Mera (whom we’ll discuss next) and sported a new black swimmer’s suit. This definitely looks more functional, but black isn’t a color I really associate with Aquaman.
Again, I think for a show like Smallville or any live-action interpretation, you may as well go with a look that is more akin to when Aquaman was known as the “waterbearer” (as pictured above). In the episode “Patriot”, half of us got to ogle Mera a bit thanks to her various fashion choices. Why not let the other half of the audience enjoy Arthur in the same way? And if you gave him a cool, funky belt, it’d still fit into the costume idea.
Mera originally lived with a colony of water-breathing humans who inhabited another dimension. When she came to Earth, she was under secret instructions to take out Aquaman. But she found herself touched by his spirit and heroism and the two fell in love. Mera became Queen of Atlantis and ruled with Aquaman, but later on their son was killed by one of Arthur’s enemies. Traumatized by the loss of her only child and unable to forgive her husband for not stopping it, Mera left to find a new path. Recently, she has reunited with Aquaman and revealed to him the truth about her original mission. Together, she and Arthur protect Earth’s oceans and fight evil in many forms. A powerful woman with a protective nature and fiery temper, Mera is also armed with the ability to telekinetically manipulate water, even being able to solidify it into weapons.
In the tenth season of Smallville, Mera showed up in the Tom Welling-directed episode “Patriot.” Played by the lovely Elena Saltine, Mera wore a simple swimmer’s outfit, black like the one her husband wore that episode. It’s not bad and it works for the character, but it’s also a bit generic for my tastes. Maybe a simple Atlantean design on it? Something beyond just a few green lines.
All of Mera’s outfits involved green, just as many of Clark’s outfits involved red and blue and Arthur’s usually involved green and orange. This makes some sense if you have many of her outfits following the green color, but when literally everything she wears is one color, you’re implying to the audience that the girl simply has no imagination. Even if it does look good on her.
In DC Comics, there have been a couple of characters called Hawkman. The original one, who is operating again today, is Carter Hall. A wealthy man with an interest in archeology, Carter one day realized that he was the reincarnation of an Egyptian warrior prince named Khufu. Later on, he found out that he had actually hundreds of lives over the millennia, often acting as a hero with the hawk as his symbol. In modern times, he uses the alien-born Nth metal to defy gravity and boost his strength, with a wing harness to aid him in flight. Armed with ancient weaponry, he takes down modern-day super-villains as Hawkman and he has served alongside both the Justice Society of America (history’s first superhero team) and the later Justice League.
In Smallville, we met Hawkman and several of his Justice Society of America teammates in the special “Absolute Justice.” Played by Michael Shanks, this version of Carter is very close to his comic book counterpart. The biggest difference really is that he wears armor rather than leaving his chest exposed. And you know what? As manly as Hawkman looks with a bare chest, armor makes sense. He can heal a bit faster than normal people, but he’s not bulletproof and he often finds himself going against some powerful enemies. But I would have preferred some old leather tunic rather than this armor plating that doesn’t look like it quite fits.
The helmet’s not bad and I like the night-vision lenses that slide down. I do think, however, that those wings would be a bit more practical. But really, this is a pretty accurate portrayal of Hawkman and if he seems a bit silly, we have to blame that on the show’s limited budget rather than any lack of effort.
There have been a few different characters to use the name “Supergirl” over the years, but the classic idea (and current incarnation) is this: Kara Zor-El is Superman’s cousin who also survived the destruction of Krypton and arrived on Earth many years after Clark. Since her arrival, this Kryptonian teenager has tried to find her own life and purpose as Supergirl, one that doesn’t involve being constantly compared to her famous cousin.
In Smallville, Kara has been a recurring character for a few seasons now, played by Laura Vandervoort. With Clark, many of his outfits were in red and blue to indicate his costume later. Kara was dressed up in a similar fashion. It’s cute but seems a bit odd that someone would have so many outfits of only primary colors.
Although, sometimes the outfit she’d wind up wearing was just kinda fun and cute, so it’s not a big complaint either.
In the most recent season of Smallville, Kara decided she was done hiding and went public as a superhero. This was her costume. Nice, except it’s really not a costume. It’s clothing that COULD be a Supergirl costume if you added a symbol or an S-shield to it. Here, the problem is that you don’t want to have Supergirl wearing her famous costume before Clark dons his. So instead, you wind up giving her a pretty generic look. Had Clark donned his comic book suit before Kara had decided to go public as a hero, we wouldn’t have run into this problem.
I’m also not crazy about the fit of those boots.
And that’s it for now. I know, I know. What about Clark? The Green Arrow? Zatanna? The JSA? Ultraman? Well, they’re coming up NEXT, kids! Check back on Wednesday!
Alan Kistler writes the comic book history/fashion column Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. He is an actor and freelance writer living in New York who has been recognized by Warner Bros. Films and major media/news outlets as a comic book historian. He is also the creator/host of the web-show “Crazy Sexy Geeks: The Series.” He knows entirely too much about the history of comics, Star Trek, Doctor Who, time travel, and vampires that don’t sparkle. You can find him on Twitter: @SizzlerKistler